With the release of its 2022 Hydropower Status Report, the International Hydropower Association has called on governments to accelerate the development of new hydropower capacity or risk missing global net zero targets.

The new report highlights that while 26GW of new hydropower capacity was put into operation in 2021, it is well below the 45GW the International Energy Agency (IEA) says is required to meet net zero goals by 2050 and keep global temperature rises to 1.5°C. The report points out that to keep temperature rises to 2°C would require 30GW annually.

“The 2022 Hydropower Status Report is a stark wake-up call to governments around the world that we are falling short of the progress that is needed,” says IHA Chief Executive Eddie Rich. “We can supercharge the progress firstly by accelerating the development of pumped storage hydropower around the world. Secondly, we need to look towards the immense untapped hydropower potential that exists in many regions of the world, particularly Asia and Africa. Finally, we need to make the most of our existing hydropower fleet by modernising it, as well as integrating hydropower facilities into non-power water infrastructure wherever suitable.

“We have the technology to achieve net zero and the knowledge to deliver it sustainably. All that’s needed is the political will to make it happen.” The development of sustainable hydropower, with its ability to provide both flexible and reliable power, is needed to support the growth of other renewable sources such as wind and solar, and to avoid reverting to the use of fossil fuels, such as coal. Certifying these developments against the Hydropower Sustainability Standard will ensure that any new development is delivered responsibly, and delivers net positive benefits to society and the environment.”

Dr Ashok Khosla, Chair of the Hydropower Sustainability Council said that the need for more energy should be met with low-carbon sources like wind, solar and hydropower, but this should be done with sensitivity to environmental and social concerns.  

“The multi-stakeholder Hydropower Sustainability Standard is the internationally recognised benchmark for good practice and should be embedded in the policies of governments and practices of others to ensure that they can move quickly and sustainably to invest in more hydropower, to enable the transition away from fossil fuels,” he said.

Erik Solheim, former Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, added: “IHA’s Hydropower Status Report underlines the urgent need for more sustainable hydropower, to support a successful transition to fully renewable future energy systems. This can’t wait – governments need to heed this call to action, or we all face an uncertain and unstable energy future.” 

The report show that China led the way with hydropower development, with around  80% of the new global capacity in 2021 being installed in the country. The country currently has  more than 390GW installed, more than three times the next largest country, Brazil.

Notable projects that came online during 2021 include the 824 MW Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station, part of the Lower Churchill Project in Canada; the remaining 600 MW of capacity at Lao’s 1,272 MW Nam Ou plant; Nepal’s 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi project; units 3 and 4 of Kameng Hydropower Station in India, adding 300 MW; and a 324 MW unit added at the Dnesiter pumped storage plant in Ukraine, raising the plant’s installed capacity to 1,296 MW.


You can sign up for a free webinar on Thursday 28 July at 11:00 UK time where the IHA will provide further context to the report’s findings, alongside presentations from the IEA and REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century).